A Thai New Year drink
The Traditional Thai New Year is in mid April, the onset of the rainy season. We intend to celebrate the bureaucratic New Year (December 31st) with rice spirits boosted with kra chai dam, a ‘Thai ginseng’ or ‘Thai viagra’. The scientific name of this ginger relative is Kaempferia parviflora (Zingiberaceae). It is native to Southeast Asia and cultivated here at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. All leaves are now gone, and the rhizomes sleep underground, and so this is the time when they have the highest potency, if any. At present it is sold in the Chiang Mai markets and a piece of a rhizome is simply put in a bottle of rice spirits to extract medicinal compounds.
Some studies claim there is an aphrodisiac activity, perhaps through increased blood stream to the testis, or by stimulating testosterone production. However, caution is recommended until more scientific studies have been performed. The raw rhizome has a slightly bitter gingery flavour and to me this is just a curious spice, like truffles or cinnamon.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell